Researchers discovered changes in brain structure among adolescent boys who experienced traumatic events in early childhood. During the study, mothers and sons were subjected to testimony.
These adverse experiences may include family instability, the loss of a loved one, domestic violence and parental abuse.
It seems that when the boys were 18 to 21 brain scans showed less gray matter in the anterior cingulate cortex in comparison to healthy brains. This particular area of the brain is involved in regulating blood pressure and heart rate. Moreover, it affects decision-making, empathy, emotion and impulse control. Gray matter contains brain cells, for the most part, or neurons. Transformations in gray matter are able to affect how the brain functions.
Furthermore, the young males displayed a higher volume of gray matter in the precuneus area of the brain, associated with episodic memory.
The study points out changes in brain structure are linked to potential depression and anxiety later in boys’ lives.
Senior author of the study, from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King’s College London, Edward D. Barker reported that early adverse events multiply the chances of symptoms of depression or anxiety later in life, which could be linked to variation in cortical structure.
He stated that their study revealed that many children were at risk due to early adversity, even if some might experience a lesser degree of adversity, which wouldn’t be necessarily harmful.
The study started being conducted approximately in 1991, analyzing and monitoring 500 mother-and-son pairs, from their pregnancy to their children’s further physical and mental development.
As a consequence of traumatic factors, when the boys had turned 7, 10 and 13 years of age, their mothers noticed their depression or anxiety symptoms, whereas at the ages of 18 and 21, the young men were subjected to MRI’s (magnetic resonance images) of their brains.
The study did not involve girls, so it is uncertain whether the findings might apply to them as well.
Jamie L. Hanson, of the Carolina Consortium on Human Development at Duke University, explained that experiences that happen before the child turns five were actually significant. He continued stating that early stress, expressly during infancy, could lead to further behavior problems and possible mental disorders.
Considering the facts, it is alarming that many kids in the US are suffering from maltreatment or extreme poverty, or one of their parents has mental health problems.
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